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4 things you need to know about conditioning leather boots

Keep your leather boots looking great with these tips

Man wearing boots on pavement
Polly Alexandra / Unsplash

Men are hard workers. We’re explorers. We like to run off the beaten path to find the most challenging corners of the Earth and conquer them. Of course, we can only do that if we have the right gear. Whether we’re talking about the right pocket knife or the best pants for the trail, what we take with us on the trail is vital to our success. And maybe the most vital thing we take with us just may be the thing that takes us. Our leather boots. The right pair of boots can make or break any adventure to the furthest reaches of the known wilderness. Or they can make or break your delicate little toes on the job site. And if you want them to take care of you, it is important you take care of them by learning how to condition leather boots.

Man on cliff in leather boots
Andrew Ly / Unsplash

Choosing the right leather boots

Before we get into conditioning leather boots, we need to discuss what boots you need to pick. It doesn’t matter if you treat your boots like your most prized possession; if they are the wrong boots for the task at hand, then you will be in dire straights anyway. If you are headed out into the great unknown, then the right hiking boot is going to be the pick for you. If you are defending freedom or our streets from the more nefarious elements of the city, then grabbing the best tactical boot is going to be the right move for you.

Outside of function, you have more aesthetic concerns to think about. Leather dress boots can upgrade your closet by elevating your jeans and t-shirt look or give you a unique look with your suit and tie. The more rugged aesthetic with a cap-toe leather boot can bring an aura of manly preparedness to your denim and button-down. Knowing what kind of boot you want and what fits your life is vital to having the right boot that looks great and lasts forever.

Man wearing boots in the woods
Clay Banks / Unsplash

Perks of leather boots

Before we get into the care of your leather boots, we want to point out some quick pros of getting a pair. If you are reading this and are on the fence if you should pull the trigger, look at why you should:

  • Cleaning is simple
  • Environmentally friendly
  • Pleasant smell
  • Long-lasting
  • Comfort
  • Goes with any style

These are only some, and there are plenty more we won’t have time to get into. The main reason you should get a pair is that you won’t have to keep buying a new pair every few months or even years. As you keep wearing them and breaking them in, they will mold to your feet perfectly. This will also be better for your back and feet because they will be more comfortable.

To clean them, all you need to do is wipe them with a cloth. That’s it. Leather is a natural material, so you are not adding to chemical usage that synthetic shoes do. The smell is pretty awesome, too. Now that we have convinced you to buy a pair of leather boots and we have discovered what kind is right for you, let’s get you up to speed on how to condition leather boots.

Man on steps in boots
Jacob Townsend / Unsplash

Condition your boots every three to six months, depending on wear

How often and in what conditions you wear them will determine the frequency of conditioning leather boots. If you are really hard on your boots and wear them every single day, you might have to follow a one to three-month schedule.

The most important thing to look for to know when to condition them is the way they look. Are they looking dry? Then condition your boots. Conditioning isn’t waxing or waterproofing.

The way you want your leather boots to age (or not age) will help determine how often, as well. People who want a rugged, worn-in look will go a little longer in between conditioning times. If you want a very polished and like-new look, condition more often.

Men's boots walking
Rydale / Flickr

Clean your boots before you condition them

Would you polish your car before washing it? No. Would you dry your dishes before washing them? No. You get the idea. Take the laces out and give your boots a good bath. You should ideally wipe down your leather boots after every single wear. Yes, every single wear. You can give them a proper sponge bath once a week or once a month if you don’t wear them as often.

Brown chukka boots on rocks
Jeremy Yap / StockSnap

If you don’t have a boot conditioner, you probably have something safe around the house

Name-brand boot conditioners like Huberd’s Original Shoe Grease or Obenauf’s Leather Unisex Heavy Duty Preservation are an obvious go-to. Don’t want to buy the fancy boot-conditioning stuff? That’s fine. Go around your house, and you could more than likely find household products that are safe and natural for your boots. Check your cabinets for things like Vaseline, beeswax, and your own hair conditioner. Remember that oils like olive oil may be used, but they can also darken the color of the leather. If that’s something you don’t mind or are looking for, then go ahead and grab the coconut oil.

Man crossing legs in boots
Priscilla Du Preez/Unsplash / Unsplash

Never dry your boots with heat; let them dry normally

This is important. You didn’t do all of that work of cleaning your boots and then conditioning them to ruin it all by taking a hair dryer to your leather boots. You will only dry them right back out. Instead, let them sit at room temperature on a cloth. If you need them to dry faster, crumple up some paper and stuff your boots with it, changing it out whenever it is damp.

It’s best to condition your boots when you know you’ll have some time set aside. At the end of the night so they can dry overnight would be best, as it can take hours for them to dry naturally.

So please, take care of your leather boots. They can stay with you through the years if you treat them properly. Whether for fashion or function, make an investment in a pair of real leather boots to show your feet how much you care about them. Happy walking!

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Mark McKee
Mark is a full-time freelance writer and men's coach. He spent time as a style consultant and bespoke suit salesman before…
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